The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

News & Views 01/15/08

Photo: A woman sits next to an Iraqi policeman in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008. Iraqi Shiites are marking the Festival of Muharram, that commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad, at the battle of Karbala in the year 680 A.D. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)


READ THE WHOLE THING: Who is right? Who is not?

A Cautious Comeback on Campus

During his eight-year endeavor to complete his undergraduate degree, Haider Swadi Kareem has witnessed more than he'd care to remember at Baghdad University. From the vantage point of a plastic table in the student cafeteria, Kareem watched the point-blank slaying of a 22-year-old U.S. soldier, shot in the back of the head after buying a 7-Up. That was in the summer of 2003. In the same cafeteria, Kareem later saw fliers scattered on the concrete floor demanding that all students abandon the university, by the order of al-Qaeda in Iraq. He has watched as friends have died and teachers have left the country. His family fled for southern Iraq and insurgents took over his childhood home in Baghdad, forcing him to live alone in a dorm room on campus. "When I first got here it was safe," he recalled wistfully. And how is it now? For Kareem and some other students, professors and administrators, the answer is "better," but a tentative, heavily qualified better. As levels of violence have fallen in Baghdad over the past six months, the tension at the university has lessened, with more people returning to their studies and trying to turn their thoughts to the future.

Protecting Mesopotamian riches from U.S. ’mobs and Humvees’

There has been wide coverage of the tragic state of the remnants of ancient civilizations that once flourished on the plains between Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Most of these point the finger at U.S. occupiers and their actions which have not only devastated a modern state but also ravaged its wonderful ancient cultures. A case in point is the ancient city of Babylon where the occupiers have opted to have one of their largest military bases. U.S. commanders shamelessly claim that their heavy tanks, helicopter pads and barracks are based in Babylon in order to protect this crown of Mesopotamian capitals. “This is exactly how thieves think,” according to Zainab al-Bahrani, professor of archaeology and arts history at U.S.’s Colombia University. Bahrani says the damage U.S. troops have inflicted on Babylon is “irreparable.” She says the troops have been shoveling the city with their heavy machines. “The occupation has inflicted massive damage to (Mesopotamian) history, much bigger than the damage it incurred on the museums and libraries that were pillaged and looted shortly after the fall of Baghdad.”

Turkey bombs rebel targets in northern Iraq

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Tuesday in the latest in a series of cross-border air strikes, Turkey's military and northern Iraqi security forces said. "Intensive" strikes targeted Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) positions in the regions of Zap-Sivi, Avasin-Basyan and Hakurk, the Turkish army general staff announced in a statement on its website. "The aircraft returned safely to base after successfully completing their mission," it said, adding that "maximum care" was taken to avoid civilian casualties. It gave no toll. General Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga security forces of northern Iraq, said the air strikes had been preceded by an artillery barrage.

Vehicle ban slammed on Karbala...

A vehicular ban will be imposed across Karbala as of Wednesday morning as a precautionary measure to protect pilgrims during Ashuraa celebrations, the media spokesman for the Karbala police said. "A ban on all kinds of vehicles began this afternoon to prevent them from entering the city's down town," Rahman Mashawi told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI). "Starting from Wednesday morning a complete vehicular ban will be imposed across Karbala," he continued, calling on all citizens to cooperate with security authorities. "Security condition in the city is stable and no violation has been registered so far," he also said.

Iraqi flag, Venice meetings dominate Baghdad press

Some Iraqi newspapers focused in their Tuesday issues on the change of the Iraqi flag, while others gave prominence to Iraqi parliamentarians' meetings in Venice to discuss crucial domestic issues. Under a headline that read 'The duality of sovereignty and flag,' the independent daily al-Mashriq newspaper published an article by Hamid Abdullah in which he blamed Iraqi politicians and decision makers for their preoccupation with the issue of the flag rather than more crucial issues. "The national flag is a symbol of sovereignty," Abdullah said, explaining that it would be better for Iraqi leaders and politicians to regain their country's sovereignty before delving into less important subjects. On Saturday, the Iraqi parliament discussed a proposal to make changes to the current Iraqi flag in response to strong protests from Kurdish leaders who argue that the flag symbolizes the former Iraqi regime. The color of the phrase 'Allah Akbar' (God is Greater), written on the center of the flag, has been changed from green to yellow and the meaning of the three green stars was changed from their representations of the three tenets of the Baath party motto: unity, freedom and socialism- to peace, tolerance and justice.

…..Meanwhile, the independent al-Sabah al-Jadeed newspaper published an article entitled 'Kirkuk's key in Venice' by Hasab Allah Yahia. The author of the article criticized several Iraqi politicians and lawmakers for seeking to resolve pending issues outside the country. "How dare they spend millions of dollars on their meetings in Venice to debate a domestic issue that concerns no one but Iraqis?" the author wondered. "That amount of money should have been used to reconstruct Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that fell into ruin after it had faded into oblivion," he added.

Iraqis divided on accountability, justice law

The passage of Iraq's controversial accountability and justice law has triggered mixed reactions in Iraqi society. Some of those who have been harmed by the former regime described the law as another example of injustice befalling them, while others welcomed its amendments as fair to all concerned. Ali Faisal al-Lami, the executive director of the Supreme National Commission for Debaathification, told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI) the current wording of the law does not significantly differ from the debaathification law. The new law stipulates that all senior Baathist leaders be removed from security posts, which, according to al-Lami, "does justice to the victims of the former Iraqi regime." Abu Naba al-Abbadi, a 50-year-old former political prisoner, expressed his indignation at the law. "The parliament should have passed a law that is just and fair… I spent half of my life in prison and detention centers and I was tortured in security departments. Now I am working in a gas station, while Baathists are allowed to resume their jobs and restore their rights," al-Abbadi indicated.

Iraq: 5 school kids killed by convoy

The children, ages 6 to 10, were hit by the car during an exchange of gunfire between the official's security team and Iraqi police who opened fire after the convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in central Baghdad. The police and hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals, said the children were heading to school about 8 a.m. in the al-Salhiyah district near the Foreign Ministry compound.

Rebuilding a Baghdad Neighborhood

When Captain Nicholas M. Cook arrived in the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad in May, the place was like a ghost town. Nearly 50% of the homes were abandoned and the residents that remained rarely ventured out. Only the crackle of gunfire pierced the streets. "Everyday it was like clockwork - 10 to 11:30 am gunfire would start. They would break for lunch and then start up again in the afternoon," says Cook, a West Point graduate from Lansing, Michigan who is on his second tour in Iraq. Dora is an affluent, upper-middle class neighborhood, home to many former Iraqi army generals and intelligence officers, almost completely Sunni and Baathist. It was just the kind of place hit hard by the 2003 orders to disband the Iraqi army and purge the government of ranking Baath party members. Cook's unit managed to turn the area around by patrolling 24-hours a day and putting up walls to choke off the flow of insurgents from the low-lying areas to the south. They went house to house, meeting every family they could find, asking about their problems, offering to help where they could and in the process building a network of reliable contacts and informants. They called these operations called 'close encounters'.

And then there is TRASHING a Baghdad Neighborhood

One of my relatives who lives in Saidia and who had to leave their home (which is a very luxurious and rich house) for 6 months now because of the violence and the impossible to live-in conditions of Saidia and who used to visit their home every week or two to check it and be sure that every thing is alright, yesterday they received a call from the only neighbor who still lives in their block, he told them that the US troops with the National guards had broken their house to enter it, he also told them that they should come tomorrow because it's very important that they come, they didn't think anything serious had happened, they though that they have just broken the lock pads or the doors and they should come to re-lock it. Today's morning they went, they went first to that only neighbor and took him with them, they reached the house and they were shocked, in fact they went crazy, the door was broken, all the windows were broken, when I say all I mean all, every single window was broken, they entered the house and they saw the unbelievable, every single thing in the house was broken, everything, the antiques (so many in their house), the crystal vases and cups, the expensive luxurious furniture ; every thing is broken and destroyed, the closets were completely wrecked, even the kitchen counters were pulled from the wall and thrown on the floor and everything in it is destroyed, even the door handles were twisted and broken although everything inside the house is not locked!!

They were crying and screaming, it's a disaster, I have seen their house before and if I want to estimate the value of their furniture and antiques I would say at least half million dollars at the minimum, they asked the neighbor about what had happened, he told them that yesterday the US troops and the National guards had broken the door and entered the house when they found that there is no one home they started breaking the windows and the furniture for no reason, the neighbor was watching but he couldn't do anything, they destroyed every thing and left the house to search the rest of the houses in the block, the did the same with every empty house, they destroyed the furniture of every empty house.


Iraq defense minister sees need for U.S. until 2018

The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq's borders from external threat until at least 2018. Those comments from the minister, Abdul Qadir, were among the most specific public projections of a timeline for the American commitment in Iraq by officials in either Washington or Baghdad. And they suggested a longer commitment than either government had previously indicated. Pentagon officials expressed no surprise at Qadir's projections, which were even less optimistic than those he made last year. President George W. Bush has never given a date for a military withdrawal from Iraq but has repeatedly said that American forces would stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. Given Qadir's assessment of Iraq's military abilities on Monday, such a withdrawal appeared to be quite distant, and further away than any American officials have previously stated in public.

From Missing Links Blog: Current events

Twenty-two Iraqi political representatives wound up meetings in Beirut on Monday with the preparation of a document that will be presented to the Arab League with the idea it should be included in the final statement of the Cairo Conference (date still not set for that). What is interesting is that the 22 represented essentially the same parties that signed the recently-reported "12-party" memorandum of understanding which has the Kurdish parties so worked up--they are the Sadrists, Fadhila, Dawa (or at least that part of the Dawa that has split from Maliki), Iraqi List (Allawi's group), and a selection of Sunni parties and independents. The 12-party memo plus, (according to this account in Al-Quds al-Arabi) some Baath representatives.

Major Iraqi forces agreed on long-term agreement with U.S.-Zibari

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari on Tuesday said the majority of the powerful forces in Iraq support the long-term U.S.-Iraq manifesto of cooperation and friendship announced last September. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed out the agreement sought the stability of the region and not only security issues. “Leaders agreed on the long-tern U.S.- Iraq manifesto of cooperation and friendship”, FM Zibari said in a joint press conference with Rice, “Iraqi government explained the issue to most of Arab presidents and there was no secrecy in it”. Branding the process of holding the agreement as “transparent taken by Iraqis”, Zibari noted “the final say (over the agreement) is to be decided by Iraqi people’s representatives in the parliament”. He pointed to the support of “The powerful Iraqi leaders to hold a political, economic, security and cultural agreement to build on our capabilities”.


Video: Freedom Journal Iraq

[Watch them bomb homes and farms and promote the idea that freedom comes at the end of a gun. Sickening. – dancewater]

US sets timetable to hand over Iraq's largest province

The US military will hand over to Iraqi control the huge province of Anbar within three months, a senior officer said, reflecting a sharp turnaround for a region once a hotbed of insurgency. Colonel John Charlton, the top US officer in the provincial capital Ramadi, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Baghdad, told AFP that Anbar would be officially returned to Iraqi authorities in March or April. The plan would mean local rule for both Ramadi and Fallujah, Anbar's major cities which were reduced to ruins in battles between US forces and an alliance of tribes, nationalists, Saddam Hussein loyalists and Al-Qaeda fighters. Security has been transformed in the western province over the past year after Sunni tribal leaders turned against Al-Qaeda and switched loyalty to the US military, their former enemy. The tribal "Awakening" groups also backed the rapidly-expanding Iraqi police, which now monitors movement into and within the province through a dense web of checkpoints.

GAO questions report on Iraq

The Bush administration, in its last so-called Iraq "benchmark" report, used questionable financial data to assert that the Baghdad government was making progress in managing its budget, a new study says. The study released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office focused specifically on whether Iraqis were spending their capital budget, that is money for infrastructure needed to boost the country's lagging economic growth and improve poor public services. The administration reported in its September Iraqi benchmark assessment that Iraq's central government ministries had spent 24 percent of their 2007 capital projects budget as of July 15, 2007. "This report is not consistent with Iraq's official expenditure reports," which show that the central ministries had spent only 4.4 percent of their investment budget as of August, the GAO said. It said capital projects are 90 percent of Iraq's investment budget.


Save children of world conflict zones

War Child, a humanitarian non-government agency that works for children affected by war, has reported on its worldwide web that one child dies every five minutes in Iraq; one in five don't have enough food, and 50 per cent cannot go to school in a continuing humanitarian crisis. The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a report published just last Wednesday, said that approximately 151 000 Iraqi civilians (not counting military/police personnel) have been killed in the first three years of the war launched in March 2003. Mind-boggling data on human suffering in so-called "wars of liberation" and against "international terrorism" continue to flow from human rights and humanitarian agencies as well as organisations of the United Nations.

Children of Lesser God

Quite shocking images of the physical impact of war on Iraqi children are provided by the UK charity, Children of Iraq Association (COIA: ). MWC News writer Bob Boldt has made an extraordinarily moving anti-war movie called "Kindertotenlied" ("song about the death of children" inspired by the songs of the same name set to music by Gustav Mahler; see MWC News: ). "Kindertotenlied" is a powerful and succinct visual and musical statement about the Bush War on Terror which in horrible actuality is a War on Women and Children, and more specifically a cowardly and racist War on Arab Women and Children, a War on Muslim Women and Children, a War on Asian Women and Children, a War on Non-European Women and Children and a War on indigenous Women and Children.

Time Magazine is (yet again) Trash

[This post is called Today in Iraq, and it is garbage. They borrowed our old name, but not our standards. Some of the comments have worthwhile information, however. – dancewater]

Quote of the day: One of the risks in shock-based operations has to do with the likelihood of ‘unintended consequences’ or in precipitating reactions that have not been anticipated. For example, extensive attacks against a nation’s infrastructure, electrical grid, or economic system can create such extreme hardship that the resulting backlash bolsters rather then weakens our opponent’s national will to fight. – Lt Colonel John
Shanahan, “Shock-Based Operations” in /Air & Space Power/, October 15, 2001